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Russia hits Kramatorsk in ‘retaliatory strike’

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Moscow: Moscow said on Sunday its army conducted a deadly “retaliatory strike” in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk to avenge the deaths of 89 Russian troops killed in Makiivka.

“More than 600 Ukrainian servicemen were killed” as a result of a strike on Kyiv troops stationed in two buildings in Kramatorsk used as barracks, the Russian defence ministry claimed in a statement, calling the attacks a “retaliatory strike.”

AFP could not immediately verify the report.

On Saturday, AFP journalists in Kramatorsk, which is located in the eastern region of Donetsk, heard at least four explosions before midnight.

Both countries marked Orthodox Christmas on Saturday.

The Russian defence ministry did not say when exactly the strike had taken place but said that Russian intelligence had “over the past 24 hours” confirmed the points of temporary deployment of Ukraine’s armed forces in Kramatorsk.

More than 1,300 Ukrainian troops were housed in two buildings, Moscow claimed.

Earlier on Sunday, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional administration, said Russians launched seven rocket attacks on Kramatorsk.

He said that “an educational institution, an industrial facility and a garage cooperative” had been damaged and that there were no casualties.

In a New Year’s attack, Ukraine struck a building in the occupied eastern Ukrainian town of Makiivka being used as a barracks.

Russia conceded 89 troops had died, in what was the worst single reported loss from a Ukrainian strike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a 36-hour ceasefire to allow Orthodox Christians to mark Christmas which is celebrated on January 7 in Russia and Ukraine.

Two Ukrainians were killed and another nine were wounded despite Russian leader Vladimir Putin unilaterally ordering his forces to pause attacks on Orthodox Christmas, Kyiv said on Sunday.

As a result of “Russia’s armed aggression”, one person was killed and another eight wounded in the eastern region of Donetsk over the past 24 hours, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said on Sunday.

One more person was killed in the northeastern region of Kharkiv and another was wounded in the southern region of Kherson over the same period, Tymoshenko said.

“Despite the so-called ‘ceasefire’ declared by the Russian occupiers, over the past day, the enemy launched nine missile and three air strikes and fired 40 attacks from multiple rocket launchers,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a separate statement.

“In particular, civilian infrastructure was hit.”

Putin had ordered a 36-hour ceasefire to allow Orthodox Christians to mark Christmas which is celebrated on January 7 in Russia and Ukraine. The unilateral ceasefire ended on Saturday.

Kyiv and AFP journalists on the ground said there was little sign the fighting had eased on Saturday.

“After midnight the enemy launched seven rocket attacks on Kramatorsk and two on Kostyantynivka,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration.

The Russian defence ministry insisted on Saturday it observed the halt in fighting but repelled a number of Ukrainian attacks and killed dozens of Ukrainian troops.

Ukraine had dismissed the halt as a tactic by Russia to gain time to regroup its forces and bolster its defences following a series of battlefield setbacks.

Sergiy Gaiday, head of the Lugansk regional administration, said that Russians were redeploying forces from Bakhmut, the current epicentre of the fighting, to the city of Kreminna. “We are expecting an intensification of hostilities,” he added, pointing to freezing temperatures.

“Our heavy equipment will finally be able to move forward faster.” — Agencies

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